|Checking noun \ˈchek iŋ\
01:02The term "checking" refers to naturally-occurring cracks in wood, ivory, applied finishes, etc. A "check" occurs in wood as it cures and loses moisture. The outer sections of the log dry first and the wood shrinks along the annular rings. The resulting tension is often resolved by the wood cracking perpendicular to the growth rings.
Luthiers will sometimes extend the definition to mean any crack in the wood of an instrument that was not caused by mechanical injury.
Natural checks occur in other materials, too, such as ivory. Applied finishes including lacquer or varnish will also show checking when applied too thick, or years later when the instrument has been exposed to extreme cold or hot temperatures.
As a general rule, checks -- whether in the finish or in structural parts -- have little affect on the longevity or utility of an instrument. However, checks can certainly downgrade the visual appeal of an instrument...
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LAST UPDATED 04-28-2016 12:07